Being retired, Columbia native Tommy Sutton can fish the Gulf of Mexico any time the weather allows, and he has the whole coastline to chase trout and reds.
But in April, his plan is simple.
“If there’s even the slightest chance I can get my boat out to Cat Island, that’s where you will find me in April,” said Sutton, who now calls the coast home. “The past two years, we’ve really worn out the speckled trout on Cat Island in April.
“And, brother, I mean big trout. Gator trout.”
A redfish man at heart, Sutton is now devoted to specks.
“I still love prowling the shallows for the reds and battling them on light gear, but the last two years and Cat Island have made a trout man out of me,” he said. “That whole deal about how I find and catch the trout on the south side of Cat is so much fun. The prespawn trout we catch there in April are so big. We just drift along casting until we find them, or until they tip their hand by blasting on baitfish, and then we pole down and get after them.
“Once that school is worn down by attrition, we simply raise the anchor pole and drift again until we hit them again. By lunch, we’re generally toting all we care to clean and can leave them biting so we know where to start the next day.”
A banner spring
By fishing the Gulf side of the island, Sutton has protection against the prevailing seasonal wind patterns.
“Most of the big wind in April comes out of the north, so we can fish more days than you’d expect,” he said. “The only winds that kill us are south — and extremely heavy east and west winds. Anything else, like a decent east or west or north, they can actually help us by helping us drift. The less we have to use the trolling motor, the better. A wind push just allows us to cover more water while casting.”
Sutton carries a mix of soft plastic on jigheads, plus shrimp when available.
“I know a lot of guys like cocahoes (minnows), because the catfish will leave them alone,” he said, “But I like shrimp under a popping cork. I prefer throwing plastics — any color as long as it’s green or black with red metal flakes — but fish can be finicky. But even a finicky fish will eat a shrimp.”
Most of Mississippi’s coastal fishermen are expecting another banner spring for trout, thanks to Mother Nature. The past two years have seen extended openings of the Bonnett Carre Spillway, which diverts freshwater from a swollen Mississippi River through Lake Pontchartrain into Lake Bourne and eventually into the west end of the Mississippi Sound.
As the freshwater flows, it pushes fish that are intolerant of low salinity levels east. In this case, they get pushed into Mississippi waters.
“One of the first places they arrive is Cat Island,” said guide Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters in Bay St. Louis. “Louisiana’s curse has been our blessing the last couple of years. It has really turned our trout fishing around over here.”